Juha Siivola has been helping Santa Claus for over 30 years - Japan is a particularly important destination
Juha Siivola, an innovation specialist at Aalto University, worked in the Arctic Circle Tourist Information in Rovaniemi when he was at upper secondary school. One day, about 30 years ago, the main man of Santa Claus Village was sick. Siivola took on Santa's role and since then he has worked as Santa Claus both in Finland and abroad.
Lovely meetings abroad as well
Juha wants every meeting to feel genuine and heartwarming. Both children and adults will have good memories. "Once Santa went to meet tourists at the famous Pohjanhovi hotel. A reindeer was following Santa and together we went up the stairs into the hotel lobby and then straight onto the dance floor in the restaurant. Reindeer hooves are not really designed for indoors, but the visit was a success. As well as greetings and gifts, we left a large pile of reindeer poo!”
Santa Claus has travelled abroad, of course, as well as in Finland. He also meets with children and adults, and not just at Christmas. Siivola has taken Christmas to numerous cities in Europe and Asia.
"Once Santa got on an early morning plane and headed for Paris. When the plane arrived, the other passengers were kindly directed out the back door, and Santa left through the front door alone for the airport.”
The reception committee at the airport included people from local kindergartens and a lot of airport staff. Just then, the air became thick with snowflakes - this rare first snowfall brought a magical glow to the Christmas visit.
Santa in Japan
Japan has become a particularly important destination for Santa Claus. Siivola has now visited Japan for 15 consecutive years. This year the visit has had to be cancelled due to corona virus, but Santa will still send a video greeting to Japan and promises to visit again as soon as the pandemic is over.
The Japanese know that Santa Claus comes from Finnish Lapland, quite close to Moomin valley. Santa Claus visits Christmas parades, shopping centres, schools, day care centres and hospital children's wards.
"Meeting children who are seriously ill always brings a lump to your throat. However, it is gratifying to be able to offer the children a little bit of Christmas spirit and a moment of comfort. During his journeys, Santa has rocked babies who are a few hours old on his lap and shaken hands in old people’s homes with senior citizens who are over 100 years old.”
In Japan, you usually put slippers on when entering offices, day-care centres or schools.
"Unfortunately, Santa's shoe size is so large that it is impossible to find slippers big enough for him and not even shoe covers will fit over his felt boots. As a special guest, Santa Claus always wipes his shoes carefully on a towel before entering function rooms.”
Now at Christmas time, it is particularly important to slow down and find the flickering flames of the spirit of Christmas in our hearts. As far as possible, we will celebrate Christmas together with our loved ones, we get in touch with those who are far away and remember with warmth those of our loved ones who are no longer with us. A Merry Christmas, a relaxing holiday and a Happy New Year to everyone!